These gifts are good to give any time – they are our absolute favourites – they might just appeal. We make no apology for the gardening flavour … we dedicated gardeners just have to pass on details of products that work for us.
Plant Theatre The Dobies catalogue is full of goodies for the gardener, and we really like the Plant Theatre they sell. We have put our new collection of streptocarpus cuttings in our Plant Theatre, although traditionally used to show off auriculas.
Our plant theatre is on the floor of the conservatory at the moment but will be erected on the wall as soon as possible to keep the plants away from draughts. Essentially woodland plants streptocarpus don’t like a lot of direct sunlight preferring to be kept lightly moist, bordering on dry. If you are interested have a look on the internet, there is a vast choice. You can buy cuttings on eBay as well. Some are absolutely beautiful and unusual.
If you know someone with hanging baskets who gets weary with lifting heavy watering cans, getting water up their arms, puddles of water on the ground, our feeling is they would welcome a HiLo device. It allows you to lower the basket to a workable level for pruning, deadheading and watering. Then pulled up – carefully – to the height you want it. An essential item for any dedicated hanging basket fan. At the moment Dobies have a 3 for the price of 2 offer you might like to take up.
Know someone who is a keen ‘Grow your Own’ gardener? The Allotment Almanac provides a month by month entry to remind you, and look forward to, what could be done in your vegetable plot, big or small. A fascinating and infomative read written by Terry Walton, gardening guru of BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. A pleasant read and good guide for both experienced and novice gardeners alike.
Know someone who is intrigued by the effect of the moon on plants and their development? Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2014: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers is out now and a fascinating read written by Nick Kollerstrom. Here we learn the rhythms of the moon affect both crops and livestock. The gardeners at RHS Wisley have proved the benefits of the lunar effect under controlled research conditions. Increased yields of 20% – 30% are routinely touted. You won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to sow your carrots! Country folk know that planning their work in harmony with the rhythms of the moon produces better crops. It’s that easy. They get higher yields and better flavour in vegetables. Flowers produce stronger displays and heightened colour. This guide computes everything you need to know about the daily influence of the moon and the planets in the garden. With its full 15-month daily calendar, it creates an essential timetable for the year ahMead and a fine means of self-discipline for keen gardeners. More information on http://www.plantingbythemoon.co.uk
We absolutely love the aromas from AromaWorks. Can’t say enough good things about them, from the candles to reed diffusers, body oil to bath oil, room mists and essential oils.
We find it difficult to say which is our favourite but must note the mix of May Change and Sandalwood of the Nurture Room Mist is fabulous, and the aroma mix of Serenity is out of this world. The scent lasts for ages, it is highly concentrated, 100% pure but not overpowering. Even when we put have them away for a week or so we can still detect a feint scent for days.
These scents are well worth the money and the only room scent products we give as gifts, they are that good. See more details on AromaWorks.
Know a fan of Tolkein books? Then a series of epic stories that inspired Tolkein to write the Lord of the Rings has been published by Penguin.
The five titles of the Legends from The Ancient North are:
- The Elder Eddo
- The Saga of the Volsungs
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles
Each title is priced at £6.99. eBooks are £4.
A pair of secateurs is very useful when pottering around the garden . However we have found a very useful pair of multi purpose scissors designed by Fiskars with so many features that makes it an essential item to carry around as well with you as well, indoors and out. They are brightly coloured so less chance of losing them. I always tie a long red ribbon on secateurs which works for me.
Here’s a list of what the Cuts+More it is designed to cope with:
- High-quality blades for trimming, pruning, opening packages
- Power notch to cut light rope
- Wire cutter for cutting light wire without damaging the blades
- Twine cutter to cut twine cleanly and quickly
- Pointed awl tip for piercing small holes in cardboard, plastic, matting
- Titanium-coated, take-apart knife for cutting sheets of polythene, cardboard and sheeting
- Cover includes an integrated ceramic sharpener and tape cutter
- Bottle opener for a well-earned drink in the shed at the end of the day!
We love ours! Why not treat yourself and/or give a pair to a dedicated garden potterer? Available from B&Q and independent home and garden stores.
Apple peeler/corer/slicer – its appearance does give the impression it is an instrument of torture! In fact it makes a job that can turn into torture into a breeze. And the results are so worthwhile and easy to produce I’m surprised it has taken us so long to find it!
When I lived in France Apple Flan was a regular and delicious treat. However that was in the days when we all had time to sit round a table to peel, core and slice apple ready for the tart to go in the oven and didn’t mind having brown stained fingers.
With this apple peeler everything is done in a trice.
Here are my Eleven Easy steps:
- Wash cooking apples – it’s amazing how much dirt is removed in this one step.
- Wipe dry, roughly.
- Push onto the prongs
- Turn handle
- Watch the peel just fall down – straight into the compost bin!
- Remove the peeled and cored apple
- Cut in half
- Lay straight onto pre-cooked pastry in the flan dish (some people put in a non stick cake tin liner to make sure the baking beans are all removed.
- At this point some people put a layer of apple puree before adding the apple slices – this makes it all rather gorgeous!
- Brush the apple slices with lemon juice – you could put them under the gril to brown them a little before brushing on a thin apricot jam syrup
- Serve with beaten Light Philadelphia, or 0% fat greek yogurt. Yum!
Phew! That’s so easy! And quick! And looks so impressive!
Widely available on the web, where we bought ours.
We found several recipes on one website http://www.joyofbaking.com/FrenchAppleTart.html that you could adapt to suit.
One aspect of a kitchen sink is the space the draining board takes up, permanently, and the fact is we find it is not an easy space to use for anything else.
When we had a kitchen installed recently we asked for just a sink bowl and bought a Joseph Joseph flip side draining board – available in grey or white. This can be put away once finished with, leaving a clean, flat surface to use for other work which looks so much nicer. Ideal for two, but not very practical for a family.
Know someone who is worried about draughts and high energy costs? This is just one item we have found that really made a difference to the temperature in our hallway. It’s the EcoFlap. Fitted on the inside of the letter box it stops the draughts getting to your radiator thermostat.
We’ve just moved house and our new letterbox did leak air, seeped rain, rattled, snapped, and crumpled our mail! We quickly installed another Ecoflap – inexpensive, easy to install and effective. Can’t praise this enough!
Know someone who always has cold feet? We have tried three different products. The Carnation Silversocks made with pure silver fibre are said to relieve the pain of diabetes, chilblains, epidermolysis bullosa and circulation disorders, we like the idea of the anti bacteria element. They were rather too tight round the ankles for us, however would be fine for those with thinner legs.
Workforce socks fit the bill for when we are in and out of the cold, it doesn’t matter whether we are using boots or shoes in cold weather, they are comfortable and warm with a really comfy sole – a hit with husband!
Then we came across goats’ woollen socks – they are wonderful! By far the most popular in our house. The socks come in long, medium and short. Plus topless, ideal for anyone who doesn’t like a mark on their leg or who might have circulation problems. Available from Wiggly Wigglers whose reviews are excellent, so it’s not just us who love ’em! Here is one: “These socks are quite simply the warmest socks that I have ever worn. They wash and dry well, and do not shrink. They also make great bedsocks!!! The weather outside is doing its worst (this is eastern Scotland after all!) but my feet are warm and toasty!” Grown by Goats … for Toasty Toes … See more reviews and full details here.
David Austin roses Whoever you give a rose to will be reminded of you for years to come. We love David Austin roses and have given so many as gifts over the years and never fail to find an excuse to give another! Our favourites are the ramblers and this year we have planted Creme de la Creme, a beautifully scented climber on the pergola. We have planted a white wisteria to complement it and between these two plants we are anticipating pleasant rests in the sun.
Compiled by Val Reynolds, Christopher Johns, Liz Lovell, Rose Monro
We’ll write something about the most successful presents we have given and received this Christmas. You might like to contribute!
I would guess most women have thought about having a beauty enhancementat some time in their lives. Certainly when my throat started to look a bit turkey like it occurred to me. But the idea of something going wrong has kept me from venturing into that land of uncertainty.
However, with people like Katherine Whitehorn advocating it and most celebrities looking unnaturally young, I do occasionally yearn to join them.
Then there are the naysayers – it will make you look stretched, your mouth will look odd, your eyes will go awry, all kinds of warnings. Did you watch Last Chance Salon? The unbearable results of procedures that went wrong are miraculously righted by experts in the field.
A second series is in the making and the search for suitable disastrous case studies is on.
Have you had disastrous plastic surgery or a beauty treatment you need help fixing for free? Maverick TV are making “Last Chance Salon” with world renowned experts in beauty for the face, hair or body and we can help you put it right. Has your plastic surgery left you physically and emotionally scarred? Do you have a terrible trout pout or bodged botox? Or did a trip to the hairdressers leave you with the hairstyle from hell? Maybe it’s a DIY beauty fix which has left you unhappy and wishing you’d gone to the professionals? Our world renowned cosmetic surgeon, award winning hairdresser and skin doctor to the stars are waiting to hear from you. This is one beauty appointment you can’t afford to miss.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 224 8439 for a confidential and no obligation informal chat.
Val Reynolds, Editor
It’s so important to be warmly dressed when out in the bitter cold especially if out for more than half an hour. It’s essential to have the right clothing.
Sheepskin – gloves, hats, boots – all help to keep out the cold and keep us active. We have never really found man made material to be as warm as natural fibres. Expensive, but really easy to pick up a bargain on eBay. We will be writing about our experiences soon.
And a hat, woollen, silk, sheepskin, whatever, essential to keep the heat in and your scalp warm.
Finally a real silk scarf wound round the neck, even covering the ears, is a must – warm, colourful and snug.
Sniffles, especially when going into a warm building from a cold outside, seem to happen all the time and a sore throat sometimes follows. We carry around with us little honey and menthol sweeties. They are very comforting and certainly clear a blocked nose – the menthol has anti-bacterial properties, naturally killing of micro-organisms that might lead to a throat infection. Jakemans original Throat and Chest Sweets are delicious, reminiscent of those we sucked on our way to school on cold and frosty mornings. Recently launched in bags of ten sweets, handy for keeping in coat pockets, they are available in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
And, what about aches and pains? We found Deep Heat Patches, activated when you strip off the sleeve, placed in strategic spots worked really well – they are self adhesive and easy to apply. This worked especially well for Jane who had hip pain and found real relief within 20 minutes – the heat lasted for more than eight hours! These were so good we are keeping some in the medicine cupboard. Deep Heat is available as a Rub and a Spray.
Then for those days we were hanging around the football pitch waiting for the young ‘uns to finish their game we used little Hotties, put them in your footwear and warm feet are guaranteed. You can get similar pads for gloves. Look for them in pharmacies, sports shops, some supermarkets.
A strong cold wind can really dry out your skin – we swear by Lotil Cream for our face and hands, it’s so rich. It will give relief for the pain of cracked or fissured skin on feet as well.
We always have a little tube of lip balm in all our coat pockets, handbags, sports bags and this year we have been using Lotil Lip Care SPF30. It has kept our lips moist and free of chapping and splitting that often comes from exposure to bitter winds.
And socks … We have tried about six different types of sock in the past six weeks and can honestly say the only ones we found that really kept our feet warm in the bitter weather we have had lately have been natural fibre, more particularly goat wool. This is what our reviewer said: These impressed as soon as I saw them! Well, it WAS a cold day! Full calf length, but not too grippy. That is, no powerful elastic to give those horrible rings round your calves (ie good for those with circulation problems). They stay fresh for a long time too. They have a good cushioned sole, perhaps the only downside, might be if you wear tight shoes or boots, you may need to up your size a little! They make wonderful house socks, toasty, with a fully cushioned sole! There are four sizes available; they may seem dear, but boy, they are warm! Nice colours too! Available from the Wiggly Wigglers website.
And, of course, thermal underwear – we find silk or merino wool the best – having used and loved Icebreaker for the past five years. Their garments are warm, can be worn for ages and never pick up body odours – long distance sailors swear by them! This Icebreaker sleeveless top is five years old and shows no signs of wear and is just as warm as it was originally. Great value for money.
So keep as warm as you can and if you come home really chilled through have a bath. Why not try an Olbas Bath? Absolutely fab! The mix of clove, juniper and eucalyptus really made us feel we were in a hot tub with vapours all around to help with our breathing. Available in supermarkets, pharmacies and health food shops.
Keeping warm reaps benefits, it makes you more resistant to germs of all kinds.
Yours in health,
Val Reynolds, Editor
One of my most enduring memories of a year long stay in France, as an au pair, was a hot drink made from verveine, a plant we refer to as lemon verbena. It was wonderfully comforting, had a familiar lemony aroma and sugar really enhanced its flavour. So when I heard about a hand cream with that wonderful scent I just had to try it out.
Winter time is one when my cuticles have a tendency to crack, resulting in that really long period of pain. The lemon verbena hand cream has a 20% shea butter base. It’s creamy texture is easily absorbed, leaving hands soft and supple and I find especially effective when rubbed round the fingernail.
On my desk at the moment are the final contestants in my Strictly Skincare hand cream choice. I started with about 20 different products. The five are, in no particular order of preference – they are all used regularly:
Energizing Verbena Hand Cream – Panier des Sens, en Provence that comes with very pretty packaging
Morrisons Unscented Hand Cream, Concentrated – a glycerine based cream it is useful when you don’t want to wear a second scent that might conflict. It is very creamy, softening dry skin and useful to add before you start to work in the garden.
Q10 by Pharma Nord is another hand cream that conditions and protects at the same time. It contains ginkgo Biloba, Pycnogenol and Vitamin E. All ingredients considered highly beneficial by skincare aficionados.
Lotil Original is specifically designed for cold weather and I always check there is a small tube in my handbag at this time of year.
On a recent visit to The Dales I took my tube of English Weather Cream. I always use this in cold weather because my face dries out in cold windy weather and this cream works absolutely fantastically. However, it has been recently discontinued … Made by Lotil it is no longer available – such a shame. I’m looking for a replacement product and will let you know if I find one.
Wearing silk lined gloves helps to keep my hands warm and in conjunction with any one of these handcreams I’m able to keep them in good condition, safe from damaging cold weather.
All are available online but of course in store is always a good place to try them out!
Kate Campbell, Health Editor
Kate has worked with editor Val Reynolds since 1996 and they are constantly looking for top quality, effective skincare products. Do you have a favourite? Do let us know and we will pass on your recommendations.
Every year we put together a list of the products we have tried and loved over the year and include them in our Christmas List. 2012 has been a memorable year for visits, tastings and tests.
These are our favourites:
Chocolate bouquet – can’t think of anything more tempting than this astonishingly beautiful chocolate bouquet – we’re sending it as a family gift to five families who live far and wide who will be meeting up for Christmas in a country house in the Midlands. A smaller bouquet and individual flowers are also available. Utterly charming, seems a shame to eat them.
Last year we were impressed by and ordered several items from the Thompson & Morgan catalogue of bouquets and other floral gifts. This year they have added to the items on offer. All details on their website.
Booja Booja chocolate truffles are oh so yum! Organic and made by hand, we have to restrict ourselves to one each a day until the box is empty. Delicious flavours include raspberry – our absolute favourite is the Champagne Truffle … so irresistible they should be banned! Ingredients for chocolate aficionados: Dark chocolate (cocoa solids 55%, cane sugar, emulsifier, soya lecithin, vanilla, coconut oil, champagne 8%, Agave, Cocoa powder.
Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is always interesting and on our return from a two month stay in France we immediately bought a hand blender – there are lots on the market but we plumped for the Sainsbury 200K version. At the surprising price of £4.13 it does the job quite well and is good enough for soups, blending cooked fruit and vegetables. We love the flexibility of blending direct in the saucepan. Much less washing up. For slicing, chopping and making small quantities of sauce our Magimix is indispensable – it has considerably more power with well designed cutting discs.
We love our Russell Hobbs Brita Filter Kettle. Living in a hard water and limescale area, dark rings on cups and a film on coffee and tea is really noticeable and slightly unpleasant. All that disappears using this filter kettle and your tea and coffee tastes so much better too. Of course you have the ongoing expense of the filters, but we prefer that to the unpleasant effects of scale. We use the filtered water for cooking as well.
Another useful device in the French kitchen was a simple Spoon Rest. I could only search out one, in John Lewis, the Playnation Ceramic Rest costs £8. It’s big enough to hold more than one wooden spoon, it gives me less cleaning to do of food marks on the worktop. Just throw it in the dishwasher, well best not to throw … Definitely the most useful piece of kitchen kit I have come across in years.
Digital scales As I am on a calorie restricted food programme (called a diet by everyone else!) an accurate, easy to clean, set of scales is essential. Again John Lewis came up trumps and I was pleased the nicest one I found, Salter 1036 Electronic Disc Kitchen Scale, 5kg, Black only cost £12.80. It has a lot of positive reviews.
I was lucky enough to interview Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, a month or so ago to talk about her, painting, work methods and style. The feature will appear in the New Year.
Christiane was kind enough to sign a copy of the Taschen Book: The Stanley Kubrick Archives for us to offer to In Balance readers. This giveaway will appear on this website early in 2013.
The book is the first to explore Kubrick’s archives and the most comprehensive study of the filmmaker to date. It would be a must for any film buff. Reviews on the Taschen website are enlightening.
Another book we came across is Uniquely British, A Year in the Life of The Household Cavalry, written by serving officers and soldiers. The book covers events that took place during 2011 and 2012 and gives a unique insight into the background activities of a 350 year old organisation. Published to fund the launch of the Household Cavalry Foundation, a new charity to support serving soldiers, operational casualties, veterans or even their horses. Uniquely British is available direct from the publishers Tricorn Books, who presumably pay their British taxes which is more than be said about that huge organisation that sends most of its UK profits home to the US whose name begins with a capital A and from whom we assume you wouldn’t order this book. Sorry, our prejudices are showing.
OTHER Favourites to Give you Inspiration
For those who find listening to book a lifeline when driving long distance, or doing any repetitive activity like gym work, talking books might be an appropriate gift. Our recent feature gives details
George Foreman Grill – Absolutely besotted with this easy to make sandwich grill that cooks steaks to a T! Our feature gives details
Rose Oil is our absolute favourite product for facial care. From Living Nature we would never be without it!
Belleville Rendezvous – If you haven’t seen this do have a look at our feature – it’s a cartoon which is so funny and whacky yet charming and engaging.
Insect House – This is a fascinating item to attracts insects that will stay in your garden to help pollinate your fruit and vegetables. Young children love it. Our recent feature gives details.
And FINALLY, we’ve left the best until last! We spent an overnight spa stay at Whittlebury Hall. We so enjoyed this. A world class hydrotherapy centre, offering a vast range of treatments, beautiful decor, spacious accommodation, wonderful food … seriously large swimming pool, golf course, beautiful grounds to explore … You might just like to book up one of the special deals on offer up to Christmas! I took my husband who loved it … now that’s a recommendation!
Phew, I hope you find something of interest to choose as a thoughtful gift.
Good luck and the compliments of the season!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Having become rather bored with the MTV screen at the gym I tried reading while on the treadmill. Magazines printed on shiny paper reflected too much light for me to read very much and the type size meant I had to hold it to be able to read it.
Then I hit on the idea of getting large print books from the library. The choice was limited to several hundred in the usual classifications. I read all the biographies I liked the look of – many were excellent but most were not very well written. I went through the fiction fairly quickly too. However, reading as I exercised worked – on one occasion I had set the timer for an hour and I read an Agatha Christie thriller – at one point the machine seemed to judder and looking at the readout I had reached cool down. The hour and a half had passed very very quickly.
I was addicted! But then I ran out of books to read! I hit on the idea of music to listen to which I hoped would keep my speed up and make me smile! So I bought an ipod shuffle. A dinky little thing that I can transfer music from my cds/dvds, via my computer. I was set up with some of my favourite Elton John and Queen. Joy!
Then I discovered talking books. There are hundreds to choose from at the local library! But what to choose? The same problem I had choosing fiction surfaced again. Anyway I chose a book at random – short stories by Walter Mosley. Absolutely fantastic. So good that when I woke up in the middle of the night I continued to listen which sent me to sleep, eventually. The next problem to be solved was extraneous noise – the noise in the gym makes it difficult to hear all the recording, low notes especially so I looked for headphones to cut all that out.
Here are some of the books I found on the Naxos Spoken Word List:
- Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
More Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
Great Ghost Stories (unabridged)
Sadly there are no recordings of Somerset Maughan’s work, maybe in the near future, I think he is one of the most entertaining short story writers I have ever read.
Audio books are a really good ‘listen’ rather than printed versions, that help pass away that tedious time on the treadmill or other mechanical device in the gym when there is nothing to do but think about your problems, last night’s tv viewing and trying to avoid listening/watching some of the mindless stuff on the gym screens.
To help you choose a recording you can listen to short excerpts on the Naxos Spoken Word List before you buy. All the recordings are available on iTunes.
Peaches Lonsdale Contributing author
We always search out skincare products that don’t put unnatural chemicals on our skin and hair. Everything we write about here are our favourites, the ones we would always buy.
Now you might think there are rather a lot, but we often give some a break and then go back at a later date. This seems to work especially well with shampoo.
Tisserand have such a wonderful a range – you can see them on their website – that choosing is hard. However here are our absolute favourites:
- Intensive Hand and Nail Cream – wonderful aroma, good feel, organic and ethically harvested (As at 25 August they were offering this at a much reduced price)
- Anti-Blemish Stick – this works well on reducing redness, it’s not a cream but a tea tree oil mix easy to apply with a little stick we always have one in our bag
- De-Stress Bath Soak – this has a lavender base … need we say more!
- They also have a range of remedy roller balls, Head Clear that cools and relieves, Energise that boosts and revitalises, Focus that stimulates and invigorates, De-Stress that comforts and rebalances
- There are frequently offers – you might like to keep in touch via their newsletter.
Melvita offer a wonderful range of good quality organic, natural cosmetics not tested on animals. We love the Argan oil and use it on our face and hands in the daytime. At the moment the website is offering free samples … worth a look if you are really interested in top quality products. We notice they have added three new hydration products that soften and plump up your skin. Must try the narcissi fragrance! They also have a newsletter you can subscribe to.
Living Nature have a fabulously scented night oil containing rose and rosehip oil together with calendula to aid the regeneration process. This together with their firming flax serum, which we absolutely love, make a great combination to help reduce lines and wrinkles. Uniquely New Zealand the range is available on their website. To find your nearest stockist go to their website
It’s not easy finding a paraben and aluminium free deodorant and after a bit of a search we found Bionsen, a roll-on product, containing no alcohol – another ingredient some skins object to. Made with Japanese spa minerals it’s widely available, look out for it in Boots, Sainsburys, Tesco for instance, or even buy from their own website.
Nelson’s Arnicare bath and massage balm worked wonders for us when we had a remedial massage recently. Pleasantly scented it melted into our skin and relieved our aches and pains. We’ve used it since on different occasions and were pleased with the results. With an intriguing list of ingredients, free from parabens, lanolin, mineral oil, SLS’s and PEGs, we think it will please those looking to relieve their aches and pains, try it in the bath … wonderful!
More information about Arnicare. Available in Boots, Holland & Barrett and online.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Honey: We love Honey and we really love Manuka honey. It has quite a strong flavour but one it’s easy to become accustomed to. Used for a lot of skin problems there is always some in our bathroom cabinet.
Manuka honey mostly comes from New Zealand and has a guide as to its strength, you will see UMF 16+, 25+, 10+ included on the label. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor, used to indicate how bioactive it is. So which to buy for what?
We keep a pot of Spirit’s Bay Manuka Honey UMF25+ in a kitchen cupboard for burns and cuts. It really works, I wish I had known about it when I badly burned the inside of my wrist some 15 years ago. I still have a scar, whereas now whenever I burn myself – and how easy it is in the kitchen – I quickly dab some on, cover it with a piece of lint and tape to keep it in place and within 12 hours you wouldn’t know anything had happened. It’s that good.
For general wellness we keep a pot of Goldenhills Manuka Honey UMF16+ to eating on bread and butter, or with a hot lemon drink for sore throats.
For particularly sore throats we have some Comvita propolis herbal elixir in the medicine cupboard. It includes Manuka Honey UMF10, multiflora honey, apple cider vinegar, Vit C, and peppermint.
All in all, honey is a unique food and Ogilvy’s are able to provide really unusual honeys – Balkan Linden honey, well known for its lightness and woody scent, is especially good in tea. Other unusual honeys include one from the Himalayan Highlands – light and delicious, remarkably floral. Another we tried comes from the Zambesi Plains. Different again in flavour due to the plants the bees gather the nectar from, this is gathered at the head of the Zambesi River by local beekeepers.
Ogilvy honeys are a special gift for any honey aficionados – yes there are lots of them! You might be surprised if you asked around. Widely available – their website most interesting.
Spirit’s Bay 25+ and Goldenhills 16+ are widely available in health food stores and their websites.
Joan Marshall, Contributing author
One of the authors of The Serotonin Diet, Dr Nina T Frusztajer MD, regularly writes a blog we always read for its insights into human behaviour. Her latest blog Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat? is thought provoking. Directly relevant to the US way of being which is interesting in itself, the article included a couple of points worth remembering for all of us:
Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber
The brain needs protein to make the chemicals that make you quick thinking and sharply
The blog is freely available and easily subscribed to.
Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat?
My early morning trek to the gym takes me past a Dunkin Donut shop and a long line of sleepy commuters waiting to buy breakfast. The shelves of this franchise coffee shop are stocked with varieties of doughnuts, muffins, bagels and breakfast sandwiches of an egg with cheese and fatty meat. As I continue down the block, people are standing in long lines at MacDonalds so they can eat a hot meal of scrambled egg and hashbrowned potatoes, or cream saturated oatmeal, pancakes and syrup, or egg, ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches, along with their coffee. Two blocks away, an up-scale neighborhood bakery-coffee shop sells fatty, chocolate filled croissants or butter laden, gigantic cranberry scones and gourmet coffee to people working at a nearby hospital. And at a convenience store across the street from my gym, high school students filter in to buy a bottle of soda and bag of Doritos to eat on the way to school.
Nutritionists tell us (and in the interests of full disclosure, I have written about this myself) that breakfast is the most important meal of the day or at the very least, just as important as lunch and dinner. ‘Start the day off right’ or ‘Fuel your body’ or ‘Don’t eat breakfast and you will overeat later on’ are just a few of the Eat Breakfast mantras sent in our direction for several decades. Yet is it possible that eating breakfast may not be beneficial? Is it possible that breakfast may be contributing unnecessary calories without contributing necessary nutrients? Could it be that eating breakfast might actually put us back to sleep rather than activating our cognitive centers and mental acuity? Can breakfast be bad for us?
Of course the answer is that it depends on what is eaten. As I pointed out in a book written many years ago (Managing Your Mind and Mood Through Food), your brain needs protein in the morning which can and should be supplied by breakfast, if only to set you up for success.
The two brain chemicals involved in thinking quickly and sharply (dopamine and norepinephrine) are made when the amino acid tyrosine is eaten. Tyrosine is found in protein, and when these two brain chemicals are in short supply, eating protein will activate their synthesis. Presumably anyone going off to a job or school requiring some thinking and mental responsiveness would benefit from a breakfast containing protein.
Carbohydrates tend to make people feel calm and mellow; and fat goes further in this behavioral direction and leaves the eater dull and tired. Although these feelings might be appropriate as a prelude to sleep, this is not the way we want to feel early in the morning as we set out to face the obligations of the day. Do we really want a surgeon, teacher or airline pilot to eat a breakfast of sugary doughnuts fried in fat, buttery croissants, or pancakes drenched in butter and syrup? Should we with lesser, but nevertheless important, jobs be eating these foods?
We know that a functioning digestive system needs fiber and water. Fast food breakfast menus rarely if ever feature high fiber cereals or breads. Do any people order a large cup of water along with their coffee? Might the digestive problems constantly talked about in television advertisements be caused, at least in part, by dehydrated morning folk who don’t drink enough fluids or eat enough fiber?
Those who eschew dairy products such as milk and cottage cheese often suffer from lactose deficiency. They will rarely find lactose-free milk for their coffee, and dieters who want fat free yogurt will have to settle for the full fat variety in the few coffee shops and fast food chains that carry that product. Want cottage cheese? Better bring it from home. But if you want your morning dairy food to be whipped cream, you need only go to your local Starbucks or fast food chain to find it on top of a sugary syrup and chocolate filled coffee drink, a nutritional wasteland.
Fruit cups, sold everywhere, may compensate somewhat for the nutritional limitations of take-out breakfasts. But do they? Regardless of season and state in which they are sold, most fruit cups contain the same variety of fruit: chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew, a few grapes, one sliced strawberry and three blueberries. High vitamin C fruits like oranges and grapefruits are rarely included, and the high fiber blueberries and strawberries are provided in miniscule amounts even when the supermarkets are filled with them. Are they mass-produced in a factory somewhere or is the selection of fruits based on their resilience to being turned into mush if the cup is stuffed into the bottom of a knapsack?
It strikes me that a lack of time is usually the reason breakfast is purchased rather than eaten at home before leaving for work. But how much time is actually saved by purchasing breakfast? The ten minutes standing in line to order and pay for coffee and bagel at Dunkin Doughnut could be spent at home eating a container of yogurt with fresh blueberies or bowl of high fiber cereal, milk and banana . The ten minutes it takes to order, pay and receive the egg or pancake platter at MacDonalds is more time that it takes to scramble an egg and toast an English muffin at home. Buying cut up fresh or frozen fruit and plastic cups in the supermarket and spending a minute making a fruit cup at home may take more time but at least you get to choose the fruit rather than someone in a factory.
Not hungry early in the morning? Bring breakfast foods with you to eat later on in the morning. Bring single size servings of yogurt and cottage cheese and fruit to work or school. Keep a bowl and spoon in your desk drawer along with a box of high fiber cereal. Store milk and fruit ( not bananas) in the office refrigerator, or put blueberries in a sandwich bag in the freezer to add to the cereal. Another option is to make your own breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread with soft low calorie cheese like Laughing Cow and lean breakfast meat. And make sure to drink water even if you are not hungry. Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber.
The right breakfast foods will not only nourish your body, they will have a positive effect on your ability to concentrate and think rapidly. So instead of standing in line for ten minutes to get your morning coffee, stand in your kitchen and eat breakfast there or take it with you to work. Your brain and body will thank you.